Winter in Valemount, British Columbia: Where the Mountains Move You
If you want to embrace winter without the crowds, head to Valemount in east-central British Columbia, a village with epic snow-filled adventures and activities. But be prepared, this place takes the white stuff seriously.
Nestled in the Robson Valley, along and east of Highway 5 (Yellowhead Highway) and between the Rocky, Monashee and Cariboo mountains (to the east, south and west), Valemount is the closest town to Jasper, Alberta, which is just over an hour by car. This area gets snow and the locals live for it, with many of them working in the winter tourism industry and eager to show visitors what their playground is all about. There’s even a winter party in Valemount and it’s aptly called Winterfest. Mark your calendars for February 17, 2024.
Skiing and snowboarding
You won’t find a traditional ski mountain in Valemount, which means no lift lines either! Its unofficial hill is Crystal Ridge, Canada’s only sled-assisted ski area, with six semi-cleared runs (670 vertical metres) and a designated up-track for snowmobiles. The access trail is 12 kilometres of stunning mountain views, and the descent has fantastic tree runs and often pure powder.
Just outside of town is Five Mile Road, a logging road which, in the winter, is fantastic for tobogganing, skiing and dog walking. People can ski tour or snowmobile up the logging road and come down in style.
Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skating and more
Seasoned cross-country skiers and beginners can enjoy 14 kilometres of track-set trails at Jackman Flats (north of Valemount between the Rocky and Cariboo mountains) and Camp Creek (south of Valemount), both groomed by the non-profit Yellowhead Outdoor Recreation Association (YORA). With various loops to navigate, there are straightaways, curves and hilly stretches to have fun on. Camp Creek allows dogs and has a warming cabin and toboggan area.
Ungroomed ski trails can be found along the Fraser River at Tête Jaune Cache and overnight Nordic ski and snowshoe trips can be planned to cabins, though some are accessed via helicopter only. The McKirdy Meadow and Clemina Creek cabins are accessible via ski touring and snowmobile and are also maintained by YORA.
Overlander Falls Trail is close to town and Mount McKirdy is just minutes away and rewards snowshoers with remarkable lookouts. Snowshoeing and cross-country areas continue north and east of Valemount around the forests of Tête Jaune Cache, Rearguard Falls Provincial Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park, with the famous Mount Robson, the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies.
For outdoor skating, visit Cranberry Marsh (officially called the Starratt Wildlife Management Area) to glide on the lake, snowshoe or ski the six-kilometre loop, and bird watch while you’re at it. This area is very important for breeding and migration.
Indoor public ice skating takes place at the Canoe Valley Recreation Centre and drop-in curling is at the Valemount Curling Club on Elm Street, while Tourism Valemount has information on winter hiking and a booklet on geocaching.
If dog sledding is on your bucket list check out Cold Fire Creek Dog Sledding (250-968-6808; 1-877-295-8505). The company offers a range of tours, from 1 hour to overnight excursions.
Moose Lake and Shere Lake are great ice fishing options when conditions allow. A provincial fishing licence is required for all recreational anglers.
Unique to Valemount is its many kilometres of managed sledding (snowmobile) terrain. VARDA, the Valemount & Area Recreation Development Association, oversees four snowmobiling areas. Its website details where the sledding is permitted and lists trail pass information. Passes are required when sledding on VARDA-managed trails.
Expect amazing scenery and powdery snow, but also be prepared for variable conditions. You’re in the mountains after all. Visitors are encouraged to book a guide if new to the region and to always be aware and up to date on avalanche conditions. Snowmobile rentals are available from Alpine Country Tours and avalanche courses can be booked with Frozen Pirate.
Allan Creek is the first trail to open each season. It has snow bowls, meadows, frozen lakes and steep hills to explore. Clemina Creek offers excellent tree sledding, Chappel Creek boasts elevations from 1,830 m to 2,440 m and generally some of the best snow in the surrounding mountains, while the Westridge Family Loop (22 km) is fantastic for beginners and offers landscape views and a warming hut. Note that backcountry safety equipment is mandatory while at Crystal Ridge sledding hill.
Cat and heli skiing, scenic tours
Treat yourself to a cat skiing adventure with Cariboo Snowcat Skiing, or an unforgettable helicopter ride, guided ski touring or heli-skiing with Robson HeliMagic or CMH Heli-Skiing It’s recommended to book in advance with these companies, though cancellations do arise.
Whatever you get up to in Valemount this winter you will surely be moved by the magic of the mountains.
All visitors to the area who plan to venture out are strongly encouraged to educate themselves in avalanche awareness. For more information visit the Know Before You Go website, speak with a Tourism Valemount team member and check out the local webcams.
Note: Due to El Nino, the end of 2023 did not start out as a typical snow season in Valemount, and there was little snow in the community and at the lower lying areas such as Jackman Flats at that time. Check before you go regarding the condition of cross-country ski trails and ice conditions on Cranberry Marsh.
Tourism Valemount Visitor Centre
For more information on Valemount, read our summer article.
Wintering in BC’s Okanagan? Check out Things To Do from Kelowna to Penticton
Snowbirds and off-season RVers head to British Columbia’s mid-Okanagan, sometimes called the “Napa of the North”, for more than its sunny and mild winter days. There are plenty of activities and things to try, both out of doors and in.
The largest city in the Okanagan, Kelowna has a thing or two to boast about. It’s hip and urban yet outdoorsy, surrounded by water, mountains and agriculture, and has a fantastic food and wine scene based on local produce. Its winters are generally temperate with scenic snowshoe trails and powdery ski runs an easy drive away.
Looking for things to do in the winter? Browse some unique boutiques and shops (Bernard avenue and Pandosy Village, near the beach, are musts), sip a cider, gin or beer in a tasting room, or enjoy a farm-to-table meal. If you’re hankering for BC-caught oysters or a Friday fish fry head to Codfathers Seafood Market. It’s owned and operated by fishmongers who promote sustainable harvesting.
Wintertime in Kelowna means annual festivals and events and winter wine tours offer a variety of vineyards and trails to visit. Tourism Kelowna has a helpful webpage that lists what farms, markets and orchards are open. The snowy season is a great time to purchase jams, preserves, honey and cheese.
Arts and entertainment ranges from galleries and museums to events and live shows. Kelowna Museums organizes workshops and operates the Okanagan Heritage Museum, the Okanagan Military Museum and the unique Laurel Packinghouse, which is part museum part venue area.
There are a number of winter hiking spots in and around Kelowna, including Johns Family Nature Conservancy Regional Park, Rose Valley Regional Park, Myra Bellevue Provincial Park and Bear Creek Provincial Park. Mission Creek Greenway has over 20 kilometres of trails, including an area where you can spot salmon spawning.
Just 20 minutes east of the city is the Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club which has 75 km of groomed ski trails which meander through beautifully wooded forests and hills. Dogs are allowed on the snowshoe trails (all 70 kms) and about 1/3 of the ski trails. You can ice skate at Stuart Park, a free outdoor rink with a fire pit for warming up, hike at Knox Mountain Park, just north of downtown, and walk along the waterfront boardwalk; the trail connects to the Rotary Marsh Park, a fantastic spot for birding.
Ski and snowboard options include Big White Ski Resort (to the east) and SilverStar Mountain Resort (to the northeast), both around an hour’s drive from Kelowna; shuttle service is available. These winter playgrounds also offer snowmobiling, snowshoeing and fat tire biking. For a real bird’s eye view in winter book a helicopter tour with OK Heli.
After such activity relax and get pampered at a local day spa or salon. It seems fitting while in Kelowna to try a Vinotherapy massage, where the residue (pips and pulps) of wine making are rubbed into the skin.
The town of Summerland, a leader in the agri-tourism business, is on the lower end of Okanagan Lake with Peachland to the north and Penticton to the south. Nearby vineyard slopes and hills provide outstanding viewpoints of the valleys and lake.
There are many parks and trails to explore. A popular winter hike, snowshoe or cross-country outing is the Kettle Valley Railway Trail, part of the Trans Canada Trail. The rail line was once used to transport silver ore to the BC coast. There’s also the 268-acre Mount Conkle Park and its ‘Bonk Loop’, and for a fantastic view of Summerland hike or snowshoe up the volcanic dome of Giant’s Head.
Indoor winter options include the rink at Summerland Arena or the Summerland Community Centre for bingo or a game of billiards or shuffleboard. Tour Summerland Art Gallery, the Summerland Museum and Archives Society and try specialty shops such as Summerland Sweets, which has manufactured fruit syrup, jam and candy since 1962. For some cool nostalgia check out Nixdorf Classic Cars, which boasts an inventory of 100 vehicles from 1936 to 1970, and even a muscle car section. If you’re craving craft beer, be sure to visit Detonate Brewing and Giant’s Head Brewing. Click here for a list of community events in Summerland.
The hub of the South Okanagan for outdoor recreation, Penticton has over 80 wineries in the region, and over a dozen combined craft breweries, cideries and distilleries in and around downtown.
There are plenty of restaurants and ambiances to choose from, from pubs and casual spots to elegant bistros and even the rooftop patio at Slackwater Brewing, which hosts trivia nights. Be sure to check out the Penticton Ale Trail which highlight’s the town’s breweries and eateries. Many wineries remain open during the winter; contact the winery before setting out and do sample some ice wines. There are several wine tour companies you can book with should you prefer not to drive. Click here for a winter dining guide courtesy of Penticton Visitor Centre.
Try your hand at the Cascades Casino or watch a flick at the Landmark Cinemas. For an art fix visit the Penticton Art Gallery and shop or the Lloyd Gallery (representing over 40 Canadian artists) or give an improv workshop a go with the Penticton Arts Council.
Shows and lessons are held at the Leir House Cultural Centre and the local Elks Lodge has art workshops, as do some of the local wineries such as Noble Ridge Vineyard where you can make a silk scarf while enjoying a glass of wine. There’s also Pottery at Artables.
The Penticton Community Centre offers special programs and activities along with its pool and fitness area and the Penticton Curling Club has leagues from November to March. For a winter walk you can easily access the Kettle Valley Rail Trail or rent a fat bike from Freedom Bike Shop to cruise along it, or perhaps a snowshoe tour with Hoodoo Adventures is more your thing.
Brand-new to Penticton is its much-anticipated outdoor skating rink. This fully refrigerated centrally located rink can operate in temperatures up to 10°C and will offer free rentals.
Just over 30 minutes southwest is Apex Mountain Resort for downhill skiing and snowboarding; there’s also a 1-km ice skating loop, ice rink and tubing area for the kid in you. Apex organizes evening snowshoe outings followed by dinner and wine at its Gunbarrel Saloon, which has many times been named best après-ski bar in Canada!
For epic cross-country skiing and snowshoeing head to the Nickel Plate Nordic Centre, just west of Apex. Shuttle bus services are available. Golf in late winter in Penticton is possible, depending on the weather of course. Contact Penticton Golf & Country Club for more information.
For information when in the area go to:
Kelowna Visitor Centre: 238 Queensway Avenue, Kelowna
Summerland Visitor Centre: 15600 Highway BC 97, Summerland
Penticton Visitor Centre: 888 Westminster Ave W #120, Penticton
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For places to camp in BC in the winter go to https://www.campingrvbc.com/winter/
Snowbirds! Spending Your Winter in the Vancouver Area? Check Out This Side Trip – North Vancouver to Whistler
Recently, we wrote a blog about things to see and do if you are a Snowbird staying in the Vancouver area. We suggested a drive from Vancouver to Harrison Hot Springs along Highway 7. Here is another drive that follows the Sea to Sky Highway (Hwy 99) from North Vancouver to Whistler.
The Sea to Sky Highway hugs the coastline as it winds its way north offering up stunning views across Howe Sound and to the mountains beyond. It then heads inland north of Squamish to the year-round destination of world-famous Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. Mt Seymour, Grouse Mountain, and Cypress Mountain are all popular winter activity destinations, two of which are included in this trip.
- Rent a pair of ice skates and enjoy the exhilarating fresh air atop Grouse Mountain on their 8,000 sq. ft. ice skating pond. The Skyride allows for stunning views across Vancouver, Stanley Park and beyond.
- Take a self-guided snowshoe tour or go cross-country skiing at the top of Cypress Mountain through a forested winter wonderland. Warm up with a hot drink or bowl of soup.
- Back on Highway 99 and a further 18 km (11 mi) is the tiny, picturesque village of Lions Bay which hugs the shoreline. A must stop-off is the Lions Bay General Store and Café, located on the east side of the highway (take Lions Bay Avenue exit) and a favourite of those who have travelled this road for decades. You’ll find local products, great coffee, beer, lunch, souvenirs and great views too.
- Adjacent to the highway is the Britannia Mine Museum, an award-winning national historic site. It was a working copper mine from 1904-1974 and opened in 1975 as the BC Museum of Mining. You’ll be dazzled by the light and sound show as you are transported underground by train.
- Just south of Squamish is the entrance to the Sea to Sky Gondola. Be amazed at the stunning views of snow-capped mountains, old-growth forests and turquoise waters of the Howe Sound stretched out before you. At the top take in the brisk winter air, try snow-shoeing or tubing and then warm up with a hot drink or visit the Sky Pilot Restaurant where you can enjoy delicious West Coast fare.
- Like to try local craft beer? Howe Sound Brewing in Squamish produces an abundance of craft beer, from seasonal to year-round brews. Pair their excellent beer with small bites or big bites, all made in-house. It’s located on Cleveland Avenue left off Highway 99, almost at the end of town; you will see the pub on your right.
- For some eagle spotting, head back to the highway and continue north towards Brackendale and Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park, one of North America’s largest congregations of wintering bald eagles. These majestic birds gather in this area from November to January to feast on salmon. There are plenty of lookouts and shelters to view the eagles (the Eagle Run viewing shelter is at 41015 Government Road) and you can take an organized tour or even an eagle viewing float trip. Visit Squamish Tourism’s web page on eagle viewing for more information.
- Get back on the highway, it’s time to head to Whistler! There is so much to do in this world-renowned resort. In winter the snow is the big attraction with skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and more, but if you want to do something different or your ski legs need a rest there are fabulous restaurants, art galleries, spas, winter events, festivals and more. A must-see is the Whistler Village stroll where you will find fun and sporty shops, bistros and cafes, and the Whistler Olympic Plaza, which is transformed into an outdoor skating rink in winter.
- To experience First Nations art, history and culture visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler. Hear the stories and songs and admire the traditional regalia, carvings and art. This is a beautiful museum with stunning works and exhibits; guided tours are available.
- If you are in Whistler on a Sunday evening from December to March check out the free Fire & Ice Show in Whistler Village. Grab a cup of hot chocolate or warm cider and be prepared to be amazed at the spectacle created as expert skiers jump through hoops of fire!
- Once you have explored Whistler then it’s time to head back, and the views are just as stunning on the return journey! You will pass Furry Creek, known for its golf and country club, and the villages of Lions Bay and Horseshoe Bay, home of the BC Ferries terminal for taking travellers over to Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and Bowen Island. Horseshoe Bay has some shops and eateries and it’s always fun to watch the ferries coming and going.
There is so much more to see in this area, particularly in and around North and West Vancouver. Check out Vancouver’s North Shore Tourism. You could spend a day or two exploring the parks and waterfront walks, Lonsdale Quay Market, with its specialty shops and services, or the historic and growing urban neighbourhood of The Shipyards District.
For other drives from Vancouver check out:
For RV parks and other camping accommodations check out the Winter Camping Map.
Share your camping and BC travel photos using hashtag #CampInBC #ExploreBC #BCNice
Published: November 12th, 2021
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